When you hear the word hygge, what first comes to mind? Cozy fires, cool white walls and a warm wooden floor, stylish wool blankets, and fuzzy socks? Well, you’d be half right…
Hygge | noun | Danish
There is no direct equivalent in the English language, but it roughly encompasses a feeling of cosiness and wellbeing.
In German, gemütlichkeit refers to a sense of wellbeing based on good food and great company (often accompanied by a stiff drink). In Scotland, còsagach is all about that snug, warm feeling in the cooler months, and in Norway, they have koselig to express that contented cosiness. But the phenomenon that’s really gained momentum and international attention over recent years, and so many now embrace over winter, is hygge.
If you search online, you’ll find no end of businesses trying to sell you the “hygge lifestyle” and a “taste of hygge” with mountains of sheepskin rugs, stylish candles, tasty pastries, and warming mugs of thick soups. While many of these things can indeed be hygge, they don’t really capture the true essence of the Danish concept – hygge isn’t something you buy, it’s a feeling.
While its origins are a little fuzzy, some attribute the modern concept of hygge to the old Norwegian word for wellbeing, with others speculating it may have come from the Swedish for hug. But hygge first appeared in Danish at the end of the 18th century. Denmark is known for its long, dark winters, with up to 17 hours of darkness each day and temperatures averaging zero centigrade.
Many Danes credit the presence of hygge in their daily lives as part of the reason why Denmark is ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world.
In essence, hygge is creating a warm, cozy atmosphere. It’s enjoying good things with good people; whether that’s basking in the warm glow of candlelight with a good book (and an even greater glass of wine), snuggling up with your partner to watch a movie with a roaring fire in the background, or taking a moment to enjoy a pot of tea with friends, embracing the chilly mid-afternoon sunlight, and relishing a moment spent with loved ones. It’s the art of creating intimacy with yourself, others, and your home.
Hygge can differ from person to person, but some attributes remain the same.
It often focuses on cosiness, enjoying life’s small moments (together or alone), creating everyday rituals to savour what could be mundane, and make it into something that boosts our sense of wellbeing and contentedness. Hygge is more of a state of mind, combined with a homely environment. It’s about being present to enjoy each moment, relaxing, and letting life’s worries fall to the side as you bask in the comfort and warmth of time spent together.
For many, embracing the idea of hygge means being kind to themselves, connecting (with others or our environment – the cosier, the better), and focusing on our own wellbeing. A particularly timely idea during the cold, wet winter months in the UK, where we go from one extreme to the other; overindulging in the lead-up to the holidays, then denying ourselves and focusing on a single, fix-all resolution when the new year rolls around.
Instead of falling into the trap of too-much or not-enough this winter, embrace the hygge mindset. Try being just a little bit kinder to yourself and others. Recognise, embrace, and savour those small, everyday moments of cosy contentedness. Take time to curl up with a great book, go slow, and try to enjoy the tiny, mundane moments for what they can be; chances to reflect on and acknowledge your sense of wellbeing.